Taken out Context, or Simply Misunderstood

My basketball game for tonight was canceled due to weather (the visiting team couldn't get their buses out of the mud around the school).

So as I monitor the police scanner and browse though some forums on photography for possible story ideas and insights I checked out a web site by Robert Knilands. Robert sent me Email earlier this morning in response to comments I made on a few days ago. The general direction of my post was that people are not educated about our ethics and standards, and not only the general public, but reporters and editors as well (what I call 'word people'). A fact of life - different people have different skills and different interests. I ended my post by saying that all a photojournalist can do is keep on trying to educate people as we go along (after all, isn't that what journalism is about?) Anyway, his initial Email to me said:


You're an idiot. If you truly think the "word" people are to blame here, then you need to go in search of a clue. The next one you find will be your first one.

As long as you're in a newsroom, there'll always be someone holding back the staff. And that's sad. I'll be sure to post your stupidity at my site so people know they always have lamebrains to contend with in the visual arena.

My response initially was "Huh?" How is saying I asked reporters to think about assignments earlier on in the process holding anybody back? Rather than really go into anything with it I simply replied:

“Thanks for the advice.”


Mr. Knilands also shared his website link with me, and I found he had re-posted me comments to his site, and then made some comments:
“Sounds like this guy has a lot on his plate just not getting his butt kicked for being extremely annoying.

Sadly, I've worked with photographers like this guy. To put it mildly, they can't do their job the right way. They're always whining about how the assignment sheets aren't filled out properly and how no one appreciates them. They may come back with good photos, but they irritate everyone else in the process. Plus, with all their bitching, they're usually unable to finish the job by providing a proper cutline, even though they're the first to gripe about everyone else.

Yes, there are reporters and editors who don't want to be bothered to provide details that would lead to a better photo. But there are also people who bend over backward to provide information and still have to listen to minuses like Jeffery Jones when they complain.

People like Jeffery Jones are a big reason why newspapers are failing right now. They fail to comprehend that newspapers don't dictate the news. People are available within a certain time window for photos. Events don't always fall within parameters. Good journalists realize this, even if they don't always accept it. Fools like Jeffery Jones and the design crowd fight it. They're not good journalists. Never have been; never will be.
I'm the reason for the decline? Wow. Never knew that my work at this little paper in New Mexico had that large of an impact. All I can say is that I hope that Mr. Knilands is off base in his assessment of me, my work ethic and people skills.


Fire Aftermath; Spelling Bee

I had a typical photojournalists day - shooting different topics and shifting emotional gears. This first image is a family portrait taken at the famous El Rancho Hotel in Gallup. The entire family is existing in two adjoining motel rooms after a fire destroyed their home this past weekend. In practice I got what I needed - the family inside their cramped rooms - to go with the follow up story. I feel I could have made a better image had I been allowed more time with the family. Having a reporter along as a shadow almost never seems to help with these things.

Displaced by a fire that destroyed their home, the Todd family is currently living at the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, and say that as soon as the weather allows, they will begin the process of rebuilding their home.

Changing gears, I also covered the annual spelling bee. I have come to expect things to be subtle. Photographic opportunities are not abundant, so I really focused on the winner as she spelled her final word correctly. Her expression never changed. She never smiled. She never straightened up her posture. The audience applauded and still no reaction. There's not much to do in that situation other than make the best image that is presented and move on.

After being the only contestant to correctly spell her word in the fourth round, Indian Hills Elementary school fifth-grader Kaylay Begay awaits a second word to spell from the pronouncer during the 37th annual Gallip-McKinley County district spelling bee at Indian Hills Elementary School. Begay won the event, and Thoreau's Christina Sandoval earned a spot as the alternate.

Seventh grader Kelsey Pittman stands at the microphone and spells her assigned word for the judges Wednesday while Dominic Dakai and Kaylay Begay await their turns during the 37th annual Gallip-McKinley County district spelling bee.

Winter Returns to New Mexico

Let me ask you something: Does it make any sense to you that when the weather turns nasty, things are unsafe, hazardous, messy or just plain miserable that is the time when I (and any other photojournalist) are expected to go out and make images? Sure, that's what the job is - be there and show those that couldn't be what was going on. But from a logical point of view, why would I do something like this? Cars are sliding off the roads, crashes are all over, officials are considering closing the roads and that is when I head out? Maybe I could justify it if I was getting paid well, but the truth is that first year teachers in this county make several thousand dollars a year more than I do...

The job is not glamorous. It is not comfortbale. It is not easy (we don't just push a button and walk away). The job is not high paying. For the most part there is no recognition for the effort. There are all sorts of people that want to restrict access or promote agendas that conflict with telling the story properly.

Why do I keep doing it? I'll answer that simply with this: What else would I do? It's in my blood. It's not only what I do, but a large part of who I am.

Gallup fire fighters pry into the engine compartment of a Ford pick-up truck as they work to disconnect the battery adfter it was involved in a collision with a second truck, in the background, at the I-40 off-ramp on the East end of Gallup. The snowy weather contributed to a multi-vehicle collision on I-40 near Coolidge which forced officials to shut down the freeway for safety.

Gallup business owner Jim Smith fires up his snow blower to clear the sidewalk in front of his Self-Storage facilities on Historic Rt. 66 in Gallup.


Catching Up on Odds-n-Ends

Anybody that has kept watch on my blog knows that I often take a while to post things - and then do several postings in a spurt. This one is like that, soft of. The images below are from a couple of different assignments that I never posted information on, and so now they have the dubious honor of being part of this "Photo Dump."

The Dragon - I was assigned to take some advertising images inside one of the local Chinese restaurants. The light outside was crisp and as I was walking back to my car this snarling head caught my eye. I made the image just because, and later it got put into use on the community calendar.

Native American actress Irene Bedard came to town with her husband to plan some events they would have, including an acting workshop at the local branch campus of the University of New Mexico. In case you are curious, Bedard was the voice of Pocahontas in the animated movie, and also one of the stars of Smoke Signals. The movie is based loosely on the Sherman Alexi book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (It is truly worth watching this movie, especially if you have no interactions with Native Americans).

This one is just a red light away from being an interesting image. As I sat in traffic I saw the smoke chang from black to white, a sure sign that a fire is being doused.

This final image is a detail using a 60mm Nikon micro lens. The pin is silver and hard to deal with, as it is highly reflective and also very small. I tried several things to light this, but always got reflections from the ceiling inside the Chamber of Commerce, and finally moved outside to a shaded area and let the blue sky and a bit of the warm colored wood above me reflect into the pin.


Hoops - Tohatchi vs. Zuni

Tohatchi Cougar Jake Arviso (51) collides with Zuni T-Bird Jared Eriacho (23) onhis way to the basket during the varsity boys basketball game in Tohatchi. Eriacho was called for a foul and Arviso sank the free-throws as the Cougars beat the T-Birds 65-54.

Tohatchi Cougar Kodi Leslie (43) takes a shot at the hoop Thursday night, despite the hand of Zuni T-Bird Raylon Chavez (50) blocking his line of sight.

In the chaos under the rim, Tohatchi Cougar Kodi Leslie (43) grabs the ball on a rebound and looks upward to take another shot at the hoop.

Overwhelmed by the excitement of Thursday night's varsity boys basketball game, three year-old Mary Willis stops to recover some energy at the Tohatchi High School gymnasium.


Hoops - Crownpoint vs. Gallup Catholic

Crownpoint Eagle Levi Kenneth (22) pushes his way around Gallup Catholic Panther Brica Blanco during the varsity boys basketball game Wednesday at Crownpoint High School. The Eagles won 58-47.

Gallup Catholic Panther Reyes Roberts (50) watches as Crownpoint Eagle Calven Morgan (11) takes control of the ball.

Crownpoint Eagle Jerry Antonio (10) moves in to try and steal the ball away from Gallup Catholic Panther Rory Begaye (45).

Gallup Catholic Panther Brice Blanco (22) manages to knock the ball loose from Crownpoint Eagle Corwin Largo's (23) hands Wednesday during the varsity boys basketball game at Crownpoint High School. Largo quickly regained control of the ball.


Roe v. Wade - 35 Years Later

More than 30 people gather together to pray Tuesday in downtown Gallup and show their opposition to the US Supreme Court's decision on abortion 35 years ago in the Roe v. Wade case. Organizers for Tuesday's event set up 50 wooden crosses representing the approximate 500 abortions in McKinley County in 2007.

At the end of the 10th annual memorial prayer service, attendees place flowers on a small coffin Tuesday as they show their dissent with the Supreme Court abortion ruling in the Roe v. Wade case 35 years ago.

Cecil Garcia uses a mega-phone Tuesday as he begins the 10th Annual memorial prayer service at the McKinley County Courthouse square in downtown Gallup.


(Animal) Hospital Fire

Covered in water, soot and dirty debris, Gallup fire fighter Casey Franchot removes his protective head-gear to get a breath of fresh air Monday after battling a fire in the ceiling of the Red Rock Animal Hospital on Boardman Avenue in Gallup. One of the staff members was taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, and all of the animals were safely evacuated from the area by staff members.

A Gallup fire fighter drags a ruptured fire hose out of the back room of the Red Rock Animal Hospital on Monday as fire personnel work to extinguish a fire in the ceiling of the building. One employee of the business was transported to the hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation, but fire personnel on the scene said damage to the building was pretty well contained to one area.

Gallup fire fighters don their SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) gear Monday as they prepare to enter Red Rock Animal Hospital on Boardman Avenue and battle a fire in the ceiling of the business. One staff member of the business was transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation, but fire personnel on the scene reported that the staff had caught the fire quickly and fire crews were able to keep the fire from causing significant damage to the building.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Remembered

Yes, the photos are a bit predictable, especially considering that there is such a small African-American population here in Gallup. However, it is the reality, it is what I witnessed at the event, and my editor told me he specifically wanted a parade image.

Led by members of the Gallup Fire Department's honor guard, participants walk along Montoya Boulevard on Monday to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Dr. E.L. Sanderson, of St. Paul's Church in Gallup, reads a passage Monday titled "The Inner Truth" before participants began their walk from the Multi-Cultural Center in Downtown Gallup to the Larry Mitchell Recreation Center to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day. The reading was part of an address by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4th, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City.

Yolanda Travers-Lemon bows her head in prayer Monday while standing in the cold with her son, Call Lemon, before the start of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day march from the Gallup Cultural Center to the Larry Brian Mitchell Recreation Center.

Two year-old Call Lemon holds an American flag Monday as he waits to begin walking in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day commemorative march.


Stumbling Into Things - Sad Realities

I was driving back to the office today when I spotted this woman having a lot of trouble holding up a street sign just half a block away. I parked my car at the office and was walking back toward her when she started stumbling up the street and into our parking lot. This was one situation where a video would have been better able to convey how much staggering she did.

I am not really sure how she managed to get through the double glass doors and enter the office, but she did, then promptly had to hold on to the wall. In this second image she is not on the verge of vomiting, but rather is trying to pull her shirt collar up to hide her face. A few moments after this she fell to the floor.

I helped her back to her feet and asked if she needed help. She said that she did, and that her back was injured. I stood by her and had the receptionist call 911. A few moments later she staggered into the woman's bathroom.

When the fire and ambulance crews arrived I told them she claimed to be injured. After loading her into the ambulance I heard the driver call that they were leaving the scene with an intoxicated female. So much for her being injured.

At this point, I really do not know how to react - how to feel. In some ways there is humor in watching a person bobbing and weaving and staggering, all while managing to keep their feet underneath. In another way it is so sad to think about what a person has to be going through that they have let their existence come to this. Needing to drink to the point of collapse to drown out and forget about everything else.


Gallup Panthers vs. St. Michael Cardinals

In a rare occurance, the boys played before the girls this evening. Regardless of the timing, I brought back a number of (in my opinion anyway) solid images tonight.

Gallup Catholic Panther Paul Chavez (0) knocks over St. Michael Cardinal Virgil Lee (34) early in the first quarter of the boys varsity basketball game at Gallup Catholic High School. The teams battled to the very end, with the Panthers edging past the Cardinals 61-60.

St. Michael Cardinal Tyway Hardy (14) manages to keep his grip on the ball as he rebounds it Thursday while Gallup Catholic Panthers Ryan Nichols (23) and Reyes Roberts (50) both try to take it away.

Gallup Catholic Panther Brice Blanco (22) snarls his way around St. Michael Cardinal Tyway Hardy (14) .

Gallup Catholic Panther Craig Marianito (40) and St. Michael Cardinal Tyrone Moore (13) nearly collide as both players fight for a victory.

St. Michael Cardinal Derek Deal (10) takes a shot at the basket Thursday while Gallup Catholic Panther Craig Marianito (40) extends his arm to stop him.
Gallup Catholic Lady Panther Shannon Toledo (40) scores a basket against the St. Michael Lady Cardinals during the girls varsity basketball game at Gallup Catholic High School. Toledo injured her knee during the second quarter, but the Lady Panthers went on without her to win 61-41.


Hoops - Scouts vs. Pirates

Grants Pirate Josh Marquez (11) takes a shot at the basket Wednesday while Window Rock Scout Brandon Lee (4) reaches up to block him during the boys varsity basketball game at Grants High School. The Scouts beat the Pirates 64-42.

Window Rock Scout Leo Antonio (24) keeps the ball out of the hands of Grants Pirate Chris Lopez (21) during Wednesday night's boys varsity basketball game at Grants High School.
Grants Pirate Josh Marquez (11) grabs hold of Window Rock Scout Chris
Tallwood (25) as he steals the ball away.


Fire Recruiting

A few days back, while covering the dog being rescued from the cliff at Red Rock Park, one of the fire department officials talked briefly to myself and our police reporter about the staffing problems they are experiencing. He suggested that we come over to do a story inviting people to apply for the positions that are open. I was given an open assignment of illustrating the story.
My first thought was to simply show some file photos of the department battling a fire - the glory things. That was too easy though, so I stopped in at the FD headquarters to see what else was going on. That is when I was introduced to fire fighter Fitzgerald Nez.

Gallup fire fighters Wes Bowers, left to right, Ralph Martinez and in his second day on the job Fitzgerald Nez watch as fire fighter Ricardo Sanchez, on ladder, shows them how to operate the nozzle assembly at the end of the telescoping ladder Tuesday afternoon at Fire Station No. 1 in Gallup. Of six applicants that began the process to become fire fighters, only Nez completed the program successfully.
Nez is the rookie and was working only his second day on the job. Aside from shoveling some snow, breaking up some ice and reviewing city street maps, Nez was kept busy by the other fire fighters who said the "word of the day" was GO. When somebody said it, he and the other psuedo-rookie had to drop everyhting and run to their turn-out gear, dressing as fast as possible.

Gallup fire fighter Fitzgerald Nez, right, on his second day on the job, double checks co-worker Wes Bowers' protective gear Tuesday morning as they practice getting into their bunker gear as quickly as possible.


Incident at a Crime Scene

The assignment: Go and get some images from the scene where there was a shooting a few hours before. After getting there and not seeing much from the street I realized there was an alley behind the proprty and it was uneven enough that I could stand at a height enabling me to photograph above the top of the chainlink fence.

After a little more waiting I got the image that the newspaper needed - it has the gun in the evidence bag and the bullet hole in the window of the trailer.

McKinley County Sheriffs deputy Ron Saavedra carries an evidence bag containing a handgun out of a trailer with a bullet-hole in the window while he and deputy Matt Hughbanks investigate the scene of a shooting Friday at 703 Ray Avenue in Gamerco. One person was injured in the incident and deputies are interviewing persons of interest in the case.

After that shot I spent more time waiting for the deputies to finish their investigation so I could get details and check to see if any of them were under-cover. (One was, so out of respect for the dangers a UC-officer could face, I made certain not to show his face in anyhting I submitted).

While I was standing around I was also looking around. Being the middle of the day, most people were at work. So I looked at what was around, and came up with these two images, as much for fun as anything:

A cat pauses from cleaning itself to look out of an open storage shed Friday
morning along Ray Avenue in Gamerco.

The cat was only mildly intereted in all of the activity at the house across the street. With all of the dogs barking and roaming around the neighborhood I have to think that this is a pretty cool customer that knows when to be concerned about things and when to show indifference.

A small flock of common house sparrows perch along the support wire for a telephone pole Friday morning in Gamerco.
I wonder if the cat was aware that these birds were hanging out on this wire in the alley behind the crime scene...?


Unoriginal title: Basketball

Basketball on the NavajoNation is a HUGE deal. I am not a avid sports fan, and I especially do not have much interest in professional basketball, but when I am shooting a game it is different. It is even more enjoyable for me when the game is a good, evenly matched game with some solid playing. That's what I had the chance to cover tonight. Crownpoint Eagles hosted Navajo Prep in a close game that saw a one-point lead at half-time, and a tie game with less than 1:30 to go in the game....

Crownpoint Eagle Calven Morgan (11) slips under the out-stretched arm of Navajo Prep's Steven Tallas (32) on his way to the basket Thursday night during the boy's varsity basketball game at Crownpoint High School. After trading the lead back and forth for the entire second half, the Eagles had a rally with less than a minute to play and won 58-54.

Crownpoint Eagle Jerry Antonio (10) takes a shot at the basket Thursday night while Navajo Prep's Steven Tallas (32) tries to stop him.
Navajo Prep's Gerard Lameman (14) denies Crownpoint Eagle Lucas Pace (30) as he tries to score Thursday night in the boys varsity basketball game at Crownpoint High School.

Navajo Prep's Josh Litson (24) makes a move for the ball Thursday while Crowpoint Eagle Jeremiah Jodie (12) looks toward the basket.

Art for Personal Healing

Artist Sandy Stoddard works in a variety of media, including charcoal, mixed media and sculpture, which is her favorite. Many of her pieces are personal and the process of creating the art has helped her deal with tragic and stressful events in her life.

Sandy Stoddard's mixed media piece titled "Plan to Happiness" contains a variety of elements that she recovered from her home after a fire swept through it and left a lot of damage from both heat and smoke.
Stoddard ponted out the circular spinner inside the remnants of a picture frame; it is the spinner used in the board game, "Life."